Jorge Lorenzo’s lead at the top of the FIM MotoGP World Championship stretched to nine points after the Spaniard won the third round at Le Mans.
This was his second victory of the season, triumphing in the Monster Energy Grand Prix of France ahead of Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso.
Lorenzo’s success also made it three Yamaha Moto GP wins in the opening three races of the season for the first time since 1980.
Rossi’s start from his pole position saw the Italian lead into the first turn ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Lorenzo, but the latter quickly moved into second and set his sights on his Fiat Yamaha team-mate.
The early race order saw Ducati Marlboro pair Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner and Dovizioso inside the top five, whilst San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Melandri shot up from 11th on the grid to sixth.
A critical moment in the race came on lap two when Stoner crashed (slid out) at turn six, and the Australian was unable to remount his Ducati Desmosedici GP10 racebike as he experienced the second non-finish of his stuttering season.
Shortly afterwards, Ben Spies crashed and his motorcycle race was ended prematurely with a busted up bike, and Loris Capirossi was forced to retire too after damaging his motorcycle when he crashed as well.
The fight for the win started on lap seven when Lorenzo took the lead from Rossi, only to see the Italian immediately reclaim it. Undeterred, Lorenzo pushed again on lap ten, this time making his move stick as he moved into first and began to open up an advantage.
As the Yamaha duo occupied the top two spots, the battle for third was also extremely engrossing, and involved another pair of teammates. Repsol Honda’s Pedrosa and Dovizioso were tight in third and fourth, with Hayden refusing to lose touch in fifth as well.
Lorenzo’s lead over Rossi at the front had stretched to over four seconds with four laps to go, and Pedrosa and Dovizioso were by now locked in a marvelous duel for the final podium spot.
Marco Simoncelli, Colin Edwards and Héctor Barberá were involved in another tricky encounter for eighth position, as was Hiroshi Aoyama until a moment on his bike saw him lose valuable seconds.
A thrilling last lap played out as Dovizioso forced his way through on Pedrosa to take third, and Hayden also squeezed past the Spaniard after he ran wide. Lorenzo crossed the line to take victory by a gap of 5.672s from Rossi, with Dovizioso taking his second podium of the season in third place.
Hayden finished fourth for the third consecutive race, with Pedrosa ending the race in fifth. Melandri was sixth as a pre-race switch of suspension paid off for him, with Randy de Puniet taking seventh in his home GP.
The top ten was completed by Barberá, Aleix Espargaró and Simoncelli. Aoyama took 11th place, and was followed by Edwards and Mika Kallio.
Jorge Lorenzo (Position: 1st – Time: 44’29.114) says: "I am so happy to win for the second race in a row, it’s the first time for me in MotoGP and it makes me feel very confident in myself. Finally I did a good start, which I’m really happy about, then I easily got past Pedrosa."
"Passing Valentino wasn’t so easy because he was braking so deep and I had to be very patient, something that I might not have managed one year ago! Finally I overtook him but I didn’t expect to be able to go away in that way, my bike and Bridgestone tyres just felt so good and it wasn’t difficult for me to keep this pace up. I have had a good time in Le Mans since I joined Yamaha; one second and two victories, so I think I can say I enjoy racing here in France!"
"It is fantastic to be leading the championship but there is a long way to go and now we go to Mugello, a track that I love but where my rivals are very strong. Thank you to my team and everyone at Yamaha for this great weekend."
Wilco Zeelenberg (Jorge Lorenzo’s Team Manager) says: "A fantastic race and result, Jorge did very well to wait like this behind Valentino and then once he passed to go away in such a way, it was brave and showed how strong he was."
"He was very fast all weekend but as usual our tactics were to be on the podium, so this is a great bonus. I thought, coming here, that the pressure from leading the championship might worry him but this wasn’t the case at all, he just kept his head down and this win is a fantastic reward for such good work."
Valentino Rossi (Position: 2nd – Time: +5.672) says: "I tried to stay in front of Lorenzo but it wasn’t possible and I couldn’t go with him once he was past, congratulations to him because he was very strong today!"
"I can’t blame my shoulder, I had expected it to be a bigger problem but in fact it was okay until six or seven laps from the end and by then the race was over for me. I knew it was important to finish and take the 20 points, it’s a long championship and we are only nine points behind. Now I am looking forward to being back on top form for Mugello, my home race."
|SPA||Fiat Yamaha Team||Yamaha||158.0||44’29.114|
|ITA||Fiat Yamaha Team||Yamaha||157.7||+5.672|
|ITA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||157.6||+7.872|
|USA||Ducati Marlboro Team||Ducati||157.5||+9.346|
|SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||157.3||+12.613|
|ITA||San Carlo Honda Gresini||Honda||156.8||+21.918|
|FRA||LCR Honda MotoGP||Honda||156.3||+29.288|
|SPA||Paginas Amarillas Aspar||Ducati||156.1||+33.128|
|SPA||Pramac Racing Team||Ducati||156.1||+33.493|
|ITA||San Carlo Honda Gresini||Honda||156.1||+33.805|
|JPN||Interwetten Honda MotoGP||Honda||156.0||+34.346|
|USA||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||155.9||+37.123|
Lorenzo extends his championship lead to nine points from Rossi, while the Fiat Yamaha lead the Team standings and Yamaha the Constructors’. The next round comes at Rossi’s home fortress of Mugello, Italy in two week’s time.